1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds (Hebrews 1:1–2, NKJV).
When Jesus was transfigured on the mount, “a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory,” saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The voice commanded to “Hear Him” (2 Pet. 1:17; Matt. 17:5). All are under divine order to hear Jesus. By doing so, we are listening to God since God “has in these last days spoken to us by His Son.” How does Jesus speak to us? Not through living prophets like God did to the Hebrew fathers (Heb. 1:1). Not through dreams and visions like in times past. Not by so-called personal promptings of the Spirit (subjective notions attributed to the Spirit of God). Jesus said by receiving those He sent into the world (His apostles), we receive Him and the One who sent Him (John 13:20). The salvation Jesus began to speak was “confirmed to us by those who heard Him” (His apostles, Heb. 2:3-4; Mark 16:15-18). We “shall not escape if we neglect” the great salvation they preached (John 16:13; Mark 16:20). When Pentecost believers heard and received the apostles’ words, they repented and were baptized and, thus saved, were added by the Lord to the church (Acts 2:37-41, 47). Christ saves every soul the same way today. Yes, we must hear Jesus today. How? By receiving, obeying, and continuing in the word His apostles taught (Acts 2:41-42; 10:42-43; 1 Cor. 14:37; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).
9 But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain (Galatians 4:9–11, NKJV).
The Law of Moses defined and identified sin but could not redeem sinners from sin’s bondage and death (Gal. 3:10-14, 21; Rom. 3:20). The gospel of Christ is the good news that Christ redeems sinners from the curse of the law (that is, the law condemned the sinner but could not save the sinner, Gal. 3:10-11. It was “weak and beggarly” to justify sinners, Gal. 4:9). For Christians to return to the Law of Moses would be a return to sin’s bondage and its curse of death. The Law of Moses contained the observance of “days and months and seasons and years,” but these observances were never an end in themselves. Through Hosea, God told Israel, “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6). Here are two crucial lessons from today’s passage. (1) Do not add man-made rites and rituals to God’s revealed will. Religious ceremonies that God’ has not commanded dishonor men and God by violating God’s truth (Lev. 10:1-3; Matt. 15:9). (2) Do not ritualize what God has commanded. To turn God’s worship and service into mere ceremonies removes the heart from one’s service to God (Luke 18:12; Ps. 51:16-17). Binding the Law of Moses as a means of salvation makes void God’s grace in Christ (Gal. 1:6-7; 2:21). Making man-made holy days and observances Christ has not commanded do the same thing (Matt. 28:20; Gal. 1:8-10).
For there is no partiality with God (Romans 2:11, NKJV).
It is not easy to be objective in moral and spiritual matters. Yet, God is impartial in His judgments, and He expects us to be, too. Paul recognized “God shows personal favoritism to no man,” therefore, he refused to court the favor of men by changing his preaching to please men (Gal. 2:6, 4-5; 1:10). James wrote, “The wisdom that is from about is…without partiality” (James 3:17). Prejudice (judging a matter or person before and without evidence, Prov. 18:13) and preferential treatment based on fleshly considerations are grievous sins. James explained at some length what happens when partiality happens in the assembly of the church (James 2:1-13). James said showing favoritism based on external factors (in this case, wealth or poverty) is evil (v. 2-4). It dishonors the innocent person (v. 6). It is an unloving action of sin (vv. 8-9). And it is unmerciful (vv. 12-13). When we show favoritism, we are in danger of condemning the innocent and approving the guilty. The apostle Paul warned Timothy against rash judgments and partiality in 1 Timothy 5:19-22. Instead, he was to “observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality” (1 Tim. 5:21). Neither misplaced sympathy (“You shall not show partiality to a poor man in his dispute,” Exod. 23:3) nor a lingering grudge (“You shall not pervert the judgment of your poor in his dispute, Exod. 23:6) must be allowed to distort justice (Lev. 19:15, 18). Fearing God protects us against partiality, but fearing men causes it (2 Chron. 19:5-7; Deut. 1:17). Our heavenly Father does not play favorites. He accepts all who fear Him and work righteousness (Acts 10:34-35). And He judges “without partiality…according to each one’s works” (1 Pet. 1:17). So may we develop the character of impartiality seen in God.
But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all the churches (1 Corinthians 7:17, NKJV).
In a context discussing privileges and prohibitions of marriage, Paul reviews a foundational principle that he appointed as an apostle of Christ in all the churches. Three times in this paragraph (1 Cor. 7:17-24), the apostle teaches Christians to “remain in the same calling” in which God had called them (into fellowship with His Son, Jesus, 1 Cor. 7:17, 20, 24; 1:9). Some brethren have wildly abused this passage by advising people they may remain in unholy marriages after becoming Christians. Such counsel is a gross violation of this context and the broader will of God toward repentance of sin. This passage describes remaining faithful to Christ (“keeping the commandments of God,” v. 19) in non-sinful conditions and relationships (circumcised or uncircumcised, vv. 18-19; bond or free, vv. 21-22). It does not sanction continuing in sinful conditions and relationships such as unlawful remarriages (Matt. 19:9-12; Mark 6:17-18). (May the polygamist remain in adultery upon becoming a Christian? Of course not, Rom. 7:2-3; Heb. 13:4.) Yet, in an attempt at consistency, those who distort today’s passage to approve sinful remarriages have even said God allows Christians to remain in polygamy after conversion. This shameful error gives sinners confidence to stay in sin instead of repenting and ending every sinful action and relation (Rom. 6:1-2; Acts 17:30; 18:8; 1 Cor. 6:9-11). We must “remain with God” in our marriages instead of enslaving ourselves to the sinful will and errors of men (1 Cor. 7:23-24; Gal. 1:6-9; 2 John 9). This means an unlawful marriage must end because one is not remaining with God while remaining in it (Ezra 10:1-4, 10-11).
I will run the course of Your commandments, for You shall enlarge my heart (Psalm 119:32, NKJV).
An enlarged heart indicates one is not well. This condition is treatable but can be dangerous and life-threatening. The opposite is true of the heart most often discussed in the Bible (one’s mind or inner being, Acts 2:37; 1 Pet. 3:4). The psalmist was sure God would enlarge his heart because he “ran the course” of God’s commands. Perhaps Jesus best described this large heart, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength,” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31). Here are ways our hearts grow larger by keeping God’s commands. (1) Wisdom and understanding are associated with an enlarged heart. God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore” (1 Kings 4:29). Our knowledge and discernment increase as we abound in love and keep God’s commands (Phil. 1:9-11; Heb. 5:14). (2) Christians’ hearts are enlarged with joy. Isaiah prophesied Zion’s joy when he predicted the Lord’s glory in the church, “Then you shall see and become radiant, and your heart shall swell with joy” (Isa. 60:5; Heb. 12:22-23). Our hearts are full of joy in Christ (Phil. 4:4)! (3) Christians open their hearts to God’s truth instead of closing their minds to its teaching and rebuke. Paul pleaded with the Corinthians to open their hearts to him and the truth he preached, even as he had opened his heart to them (2 Cor. 6:11, 13; 7:2). Accepting and obeying the truth is not always easy. An open heart receives the truth and runs the course of God’s commands (Luke 8:15). How large is your heart today? Hearts grow as God is obeyed.
14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:14–15, NKJV)
Paul’s sequential flourish of rhetorical questions reaches an apex with the glorious gospel of peace with God and its welcomed messengers. Nahum wrote of the impending downfall of Nineveh, the great enemy of righteousness whose sins doomed her to destruction. God was against her and would be laid waste by Babylon (Nahum 3:5-7). Messengers shouted the good news of Nineveh’s demise from the mountaintops; Peace had arrived (Nahum 1:15). Nahum’s portrait of this victorious proclamation typifies the more significant announcement of sin and death’s defeat by the Son of God. His gospel declares deliverance from sin’s bondage and death. It heralds salvation’s peace with God through Jesus, the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6; Eph. 2:14-18; Col. 1:20-22). Preaching the gospel of Christ is essential for sinners to hear its saving message. Otherwise, they cannot believe in Christ and call on Him for salvation (Rom. 10:12-13; Acts 22:16). And so, Christ sent out His apostles to preach the gospel of peace to the world (Mark 16:15; Matt. 28:19-20). Early Christians went everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8:4). Christians continue to walk in their steps, bringing the glad tidings of good things, the gospel of peace.
32 So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. 33 And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” But after that no one dared question Him (Mark 12:32–34, NKJV).
The scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians continually tried to ensnare Jesus with His words (Luke 11:53-54). They utterly failed. After witnessing one such occasion, this scribe acknowledged the truth Jesus spoke and applied it to loving God and others. He was beginning to grasp the Savior’s teaching. Jesus said he was near the kingdom. Christians should guard against being like the scribes and others by seeking loopholes in Christ’s word. Our hearts should be noble and receptive toward God’s truth, not obstinate and combative (Luke 8:15). This text also teaches us we cannot excuse the ill-treatment of others with religious offerings and sacrifices. Deeds of spiritual piety do not conceal inward hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matt. 23:27-28). Jesus laid down His life because He loved the Father and every one of us. We are called to God and others as He has loved us (1 John 3:16; 4:10-11). Remember, “we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16).
1 O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger, nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure. 2 Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled. 3 My soul also is greatly troubled; But You, O Lord—how long (Psalm 6:1–3, NKJV)?
David’s soul experienced deep agony due to his sin that was always before him (Ps. 51:3). David’s sin greatly displeased the Lord, but David repented with a contrite heart, and the Lord was merciful to him (Ps. 51:1-2, 7-13, 17; 2 Sam. 12:13). Nevertheless, enemies and “workers of iniquity” would grieve and afflict David; Sin brings consequences (2 Sam. 12:10-11, 14; Ps. 6:6-7). Today’s psalm reflects David’s distress before his enemies who were sinning against the Lord. He prayed to the Lord for mercy to relieve his pain (Ps. 6:1-7). He also prayed to the Lord for justice against his enemies (Ps. 6:8-10). Like David, our sins and the sins of others bring hardships into our lives (Prov. 13:15; 2 Tim. 2:9; 3:12). If you are groaning and suffering because of your sin, turn to God for mercy. Do not remain silent before Him (Ps. 32:1-3). God will forgive you when you come to Him through His Son (John 6:44-45; Matt. 11:28-30; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Acts 18:8). Christian friend, do not become embittered if you are suffering because of someone else’s sin. In prayer, turn to God for strength to faithfully endure (Heb. 4:15-16; 10:35-39). Ultimately, He will right every wrong (2 Thess. 1:5-10). Praise God today for His mercy. Depend on Him today for the strength to remain faithful went confronted with evil.
30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me. 31 But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here (John 14:30–31, NKJV).
Jesus was about to be arrested, tried, and condemned to death by crucifixion. We marvel at God’s love for us by which He “gave His only begotten Son” for the redemption of sinners (John 3:16; 1 John 3:16; 4:8-10). Today’s passage adds another element to God’s love for us; the Son’s love for the Father. Jesus’s death on the cross was not only the great expression of divine love for humanity but also the great expression of His obedient love for His Father (Rom. 5:8; John 6:38; 10:18). Christ’s love for the Father compelled Him to do the Father’s will, becoming “obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8). His sacrificial, selfless obedience makes Him the Exemplar of love. You see, previously in today’s passage, Jesus had told His apostles, “If you love Me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Jesus holds His disciples to the same standard He followed; to express our love for Him through faithful obedience. We ought not to view obedience as a legalistic approach to discipleship but as love’s full measure of devotion. As John wrote, “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18). It is no wonder that Jesus saves those who obey Him (Heb. 5:8-9). Today and hereafter, “arise, let us go from here” and in love obey the Father and the Son.
16 But when Herod heard, he said, “This is John, whom I beheaded; he has been raised from the dead!” 17 For Herod himself had sent and laid hold of John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; for he had married her. 18 Because John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife” (Mark 6:16–18, NKJV).
Herod thought John had risen from the dead when he heard about the healing powers of Jesus. John was a fearless preacher of righteousness who lost his head, literally. Would your preacher do what John did? (1) John lost his head because he dared to condemn adultery (Mark 6:18). Because of his rebuke, Herodias was enraged and wanted to kill him (Mark 6:19-20). Today, many preachers approve or accommodate adulterous marriages with preaching that sanctions divorce for any reason and remarriage with impunity (Matt. 5:32; 19:3-6, 9). Like John, we must condemn adultery (including sinful remarriages), not comfort those practicing it (Heb. 13:4). (2) John lost his head because of a rash vow (Mark 6:21-26). Herod swore up to half of his kingdom to Herodias’s daughter, driven by fleshly pleasure when he saw her dance. John’s head was on the line. Herod was sorry, but he was too proud to recant. Tongue control still begins with heart control (Matt. 12:35-37). (3) John lost his head because of a dancing daughter (Mark 6:22). Please note, Herod did not dance, but he watched it. Modern dances still incite lustful thoughts leading to lewd conduct (Gal. 5:19; Rom. 13:13). If you don’t go into a burning house to watch the flames, then don’t go to the dance floor (or turn on the TV) just to watch it (Job 31:1-4). How many preachers today would lose their heads in Herod’s court?